When Steiner Studios finally opens its movie factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard later this summer, it will include the largest soundstage in town—big enough, Steiner hopes, to steal movies away from Hollywood. But the city’s other studios were more afraid that Steiner’s real plan was to steal productions away from them.
Earlier this summer, they found out Steiner was asking the state to turn the Navy Yard into a sort of Antigua on the East River—a special low-tax moviemaking zone. “It was done behind everybody’s back!” says one producer. “There’s always been a fair amount of goodwill” among the local studios. “That’s what shocked everybody. The new kid doesn’t play by the rules.”
The rival soundstages—Silvercup and Kaufman Astoria in Queens, and Silver Screen in Manhattan— quickly mobilized. Several tense meetings in Albany later, the Steiner plan was dead. Still, Steiner may have done them all a favor. Now the studios, however uncomfortably, are working together to push the state to pass a tax credit for new film and TV productions using any of their spaces. “It focused us,” says Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman. (Steiner Studios wouldn’t comment.)
Although Mayor Bloomberg has aggressively promoted New York’s $5 billion film and TV production industry, the competition keeps getting worse, as towns, states—even entire countries—attempt to lure productions to their low-cost backwaters, often by offering tax credits. It’s become a filmer’s market. The Steiner proposal came about after the producers of The Producers movie said they’d film in the city if there was a tax credit.
Right now, “we’re a star-driven town,” says Rosenbluth. “Someone has to have the clout to say they want to film here. Spin City happened when Michael J. Fox called New York home. When he left, they moved it to L.A.”
The proposals won’t make New York Toronto-cheap, but should keep it in the running. Queens assemblyman Michael Gianaris says, “I believe we have both the Assembly and Senate inclined to do this,” which leaves it up to the governor. Meanwhile, New Jersey passed an incentive program last year—and even California is talking about it. And The Producers is to start shooting, somewhere, in early 2005.